Sucheta Dalal on GIVE Foundation which has brought professionalism into charity
One of the biggest travails even of simple charity in India is the nagging worry about whether one's money will be correctly spent. Another is the effort involved in reaching aid to those NGOs that pursue your special concerns. Give Foundation (www.givefoundation.org) is an NGO that aims to answer both these concerns through efficient and effective 'giving'.
Give Foundation in India was conceptualised by N.Venkat Krishnan, an IIM Ahmedabad graduate, who was always certain that the regular corporate rat race is not for him. After a brief stint at the Times of India, he took off to promote an unusual school in Gujarat and later 'Giving' in India with corporate support. He aims to ensure that efficient and effective NGOs find resources to pursue their cause through a variety of platforms that encourage easy 'giving'.
In 2000 GIVE created an Internet platform to promote online donations. This has already channelled Rs two crore to various NGOs. A second platform is 'Payroll Giving' where all employees of a company donate a small part of their monthly salary to causes of their choice. Already, it has a list of 20 odd companies (such as Star TV, ICICI, IMRB, Hewlett-Packard, H &R Johnson and WPP Media) whose employees contribute Rs 100-500 a month to help educate a child, donate eyes or wheelchairs. Sometimes the employers match the employees' contribution.
Another strategy is to be part of high-profile events. The Standard Chartered international marathon, which has become a significant event on Mumbai's social calendar, is probably its most successful effort. This single event allows Give Foundation to help raise a big chunk of money for scores of genuine causes and provides a social dimension to the event.
GIVE's strength is its two-way support system. On the one hand, it helps NGOs professionalise their accounting and reporting systems to meet donor requirements and improve transparency (this includes cash-flow planning, fund management, internal control processes, document design and systems implementation). On the other hand it helps donors with Grant Management services so that every rupee donated is correctly spent.
It has screened over 1000 NGOs in the last couple of years, helping disburse funds for the Gujarat earthquake and Orissa flood relief, having apparently helped channel Rs 220 crore of grants and services for government departments, individuals and companies.
It has a Give2India scheme for donations of $10,000 and above. This allows donors to route funds through an ICICI Bank escrow account, a deposit or specially designed structures that transfer funds through ICICI Bank to a chosen NGO in milestone-based installments. This has allowed a venture capitalist to donate a hefty $100,000 for "livelihoods in Rural Karnataka"; a banker in Singapore to donate $60,000 to "electrify villages in Orissa using Biodiesel technology of project SuTRa"; a Swiss business owner to donate $60,000 to set up an Orphanage near Mumbai; a doctor in Manchester to donate 50,000 Pounds to support the mentally ill and an old-age home in Tamil Nadu; and a senior executive to provide $20,000 to promote 'entrepreneurship in Assam".
The foundation has even helped large corporates (Godrej, the Taj Group, the Bombay Stock Exchange) develop a comprehensive philanthropy strategy. According to Give India's website, its uniqueness is that it treats the donor as an 'investor', who is looking for a return of some kind - most often just the satisfaction of knowing how his/her money is well spent. All donors get a report on their donations.
GIVE makes a stretched comparison between financial intermediaries and various kinds of Non-profit structures operating in social development efforts. It is involved in helping the evolution of some of these, such as a credit or performance rating of NGOs and an informal self-regulatory alliance.
According to GIVE, "If Indians gave back to society in the same proportion as Americans do, we could be donating Rs 60,000 crore a year to help those in need". This would exceed the government's allocation for healthcare and education. As against this, Indians apparently donate anywhere between Rs 1000-5000 crore. Clearly, we have a long way to go.